The Orioles head on the road to begin the post-All-Star break portion of the 2021 season.
For two last place teams, like the Orioles and Royals, the All-Star break provides a welcome reprieve from the normally scheduled bad baseball they are asked to endure for the majority of the summer. Both teams had lost four consecutive games going into the mini vacation, and now they emerge with a somewhat favorable match-up, a series against a team existing in the same realm of poor performance as themselves.
Of course, the Royals, just like our O’s, have their bright spots. Whit Merrifield and Salvador Perez were deserving All-Stars. Merrifield leads MLB with 24 stolen bases, four more than second place Fernando Tatis Jr. Perez leads all catchers with 21 home runs, and it is impressive that the 31-year-old has played in every single Royals game, only occasionally taking a half day off from his work behind the plate to DH. The most dangerous member of the lineup, however, is Carlos Santana. He is walking (15.7%) more than he is striking out (14.9%), and his 118 wRC+ is a team-high.
There are some problems in the Kansas City starting rotation, where they sport a beefy 5.38 ERA, the third-worst mark in MLB. But it’s dotted with some solid performers, like Brady Singer and his 3.88 xFIP and 1.5 fWAR, or Danny Duffy and his 2.57 ERA over 56 innings. But those starters just don’t go deep enough. Their 423 innings thrown over 89 games is second-worst in baseball. Fortunately for them, we all know too well who the worst team is in that regard.
Noteworthy names that you won’t see in this series due to injuries include shortstop Adalberto Mondesi and pitcher Wade Davis. Mondesi has a left oblique strain that has kept him sidelined since June. Davis strained his right forearm in June, and there is no timetable for his return.
Game 1: Friday, July 16th, 8:10 p.m., MASN 2
Kegan Akin (0-4, 7.54 ERA) vs. TBA
It has been a bad season for Keegan Akin, but he does not deserve for it to be going this poorly. His 7.54 ERA is padded by a crazy .370 batting average on balls in play and has seen a mighty high 15.5% of fly balls turn into home runs. This sort of bad luck should, eventually, turn around as his 5.93 xERA and 4.62 xFIP are still bad, but much easier to stomach.
The Royals have not announced their starters for any of the games this weekend. That always makes writing a series preview a real joy. Carlos Hernández (1-0, 4.98 ERA) was supposed to start the team’s final game prior to the All-Star break, but it was rained out. So, he could be a logical choice here.
Game 2: Saturday, July 17th, 7:10 p.m., MASN 2
TBA vs. TBA
It really is anyone’s guess as to how Brandon Hyde chooses to deploy his rotation. He said specifically before the break that Matt Harvey (3-10, 7.70 ERA) and Jorge López (2-12, 5.95 ERA) were going to be getting an extended period of time off following their previous starts. Harvey last pitched on July 7th while López appeared on the 9th. López is also currently on the bereavement list, making it unlikely he pitches in this series at all.
Game 3: Saturday, July 18th, 2:10 p.m., MASN 2
TBA vs. TBA
Perhaps the most obvious course of action for the second and third games of this series would simply be for Hyde to turn to Thomas Eshelman (0-2, 8.35 ERA) and Spenser Watkins (1-0, 1.74 ERA). They would be working on at least an extra day or two of rest. If that is not preferable, then a bullpen game would be the next logical step with Adam Plutko (1-2, 4.72 ERA) the most likely candidate to get things rolling. If all else stays on schedule, this could be our final John Means-less game of the forseeable future.